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14 November 2007, 10:10 am
Groupama Just 100 Miles From Bahia
Groupama is 100 miles from the finish
Groupama is 100 miles from the finish

Transat Jacques Vabre 2007

Groupama 2 is closing in on Bahia, Brazil and the finishing line of the 2007 Transat Jacque Vabre.
Groupama 2, with Franck CAMMAS (FRA) and Steve RAVUSSIN (SUI) onboard, was just 106nm from the finish at the 08:00 poling this morning. If she crosses the finish line today before 13:00 she will not only win the race, but break the Transat Jacques Vabre's record set in 2003 (11 days, 23 hours and 10 minutes) by Groupama 1 with the same crew.

The miles are unfolding quickly under the hulls of the green trimaran, showing averages of 23 knots at 16:00 yesterday, down to 20 knots this morning. But still the drivers are being cautious with their demanding thoroughbred. They require full attention as the slightest mistake at the helm could cause a scare - or end their race. At the same moment the green bows should cross the finish line, the leader of the IMOCA class should enter the Doldrums some 1,500 miles from the finish.

Monohulls - IMOCA and Class 40

The monohulls are entering their 11th day at sea and the seven boats at the front of the pack are sailing within 80 miles of the leader. So far so good for Ecover 3 which has been controlling her competitors for three days now, whether they are just behind her, to her west or to her east. Her gain during the night left her competitors speechless. According to Michel DESJOYAUX (Foncia), Ecover 3 is holding a spinnaker that enabled Mike GOLDING (GBR) and Bruno DUBOIS (CAN) to sail at a different wind angle while the other competitors were running.

In response GOLDING commented, "We have a got a big spinnaker, no bigger than anyone else's I don't think. And we have the man on board who would know [North Sails France's Bruno DUBOIS]. It is more important that the 100 miles that he is adrift is the 100 miles he went over to Africa and back! Not too much of it is down to sails or the way we are sailing, more down to the route and the wind shifts. Our spinnaker is just a development of the one we had on the other boat. Sure, we have done some work on it over the winter, with a few people and some wind tunnel stuff, but it is a spinnaker for crying out loud, it's not going to make that much difference!"

Gitana Eighty, Groupe Bel and Cheminées Poujoulat are still sailing in the path of Ecover 3, while VM Matériaux's option in the route west no longer looks like a threat. Safran's move through the Cape Verde Islands has cost her four places since Monday. Safran skipper Marc GUILLEMOT (FRA) positioned his boat to the north of the leaders to try and optimize his entry point into the Doldrums. Crossing this area should take up to three days for the monohulls, depending on the weather conditions. Pascal BIDEGORRY (Banque Populaire - ORMA) cited particularly rough conditions in the area in this Transat. The Roxy girls are 20 miles away from Generali and a bit more north of her. At the moment they are sailing close to the direct route right above the Portuguese archipelago while keeping an eye on the rear-view mirror as Maisonneuve has halved the mile gap between them.

Opting for a western route to cross the Canary Islands was definitely not the right move in the Class 40. Sidaction, which briefly led the fleet at Madera, dropped to sixth, while Clarke Offshore Sailing, which made some nice gains in the rankings after crossing the fleet (8 November) by gybing west, fell to 16th (16:00), sidelined by a massive no-wind hole; a situation that should last at least another day, according to the British and Kiwi skippers. As a result, the top of the rankings - Telecom Italia (even if not positioned at 16:00), ATAO Audio System and Chocolat Monbana - welcomes new competitors. 40 degrees gained four places since Monday and Deep Blue reached fifth. AST Group has kept her place in the top seven since the North Atlantic (now in fourth at 16:00 yesterday), which in those conditions means manoeuvring every hour. As noted today by Marc EMIG (FRA), that does not leave much time for sleeping! Sailing along the African coast, Novedia Set Environnement has racked up a few places in the rankings and closed the mile gap (86 miles from the leader at 16:00). Tanguy DE LAMOTTE and Nick BUBB made an inventory of their rations and water reserve onboard, which they will be cautiously managing until the finish. And they might not be the only ones.

Multihulls - ORMA and Class 50

As Groupama 2 is steadily approaching the finish line in Bahia, Gitana 11 is obviously still pushing and picking up miles on her, making 581 miles in the last 24 hours. But apart from a breakage, the end game is already known. Banque Populaire's skipper Pascal BIDEGORRY (FRA), 309 miles behind the leader, noted his frustration in not having been able to spar longer with CAMMAS (because of the pit stop he was forced to make to repair his rudder).

In fourth, Yvan BOURGNON (FRA) said he saw nothing of the inter-tropical convergence zone (Doldrums) and was enjoying the ride on his trimaran, Brossard - finally sailing on a single floater at 30 knots. Sopra was still hot on his heels (31 miles behind at 16:00 yesterday, but the gap has widened to over 100 miles this morning.

Class 50 Crèpes Whaou ! sailed through the Cape Verde Islands and gybed a few miles in front of Ecover 3 on the same route. Laiterie de St Malo is some 320 miles away, showing a better average over the last 24 hours but with the Portuguese archipelago left to negotiate. Croisières Anne Caseneuve is 100 miles behind Laiterie. Negoceane and Nim Interim are sailing with the last IMOCA - or the first 40 footers depending on how you look at it.

Transat Jacques Vabre -
Veronique Teurlay (As Amended By ISAF)
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